Bixby Overcomes Adversity, Sandites, 34-31
11.8.14 by Ron Holt
Turnovers, penalties, mental mistakes in the kicking game and a talented football team were obstacles facing Bixby High's top-ranked football team last Friday at Lee Snider Stadium.

Bixby overcame all of the above as the Spartans turned back Sand Springs, 34-31, to capture the program's first district championship since 2007.

BHS, 9-1 overall and 7-0 in District 6AII-1, entertains Stillwater in a first round state playoff game next Friday.
Stillwater, 7-3, secured the fourth spot in District 6AII-2 after a 70-41 home victory over Lawton Eisenhower last Friday. Sand Springs, 7-3 overall and 5-2 in district play, proved to be a formidable challenge. But, at times, Bixby appeared to be its own worst enemy.

The Spartans were victimized by 10 penalties for 125 yards. They lost three fumbles and had numerous breakdowns in the kicking game. Sand Springs also dominated time of possession, 33:35 to 15:25.
Bixby, however, relied on its maturity and mental toughness, making key plays on defense and offense to secure the game in the final minute.

"I think this game will get our attention going into the playoffs," said BHS head coach Loren Montgomery. "It was pretty sloppy but I still think we played well. Our effort was great, we had guys flying around. That's a good team we played. "It's a tremendous deal for our football program to win a district championship," he added. "I'm proud of our kids and proud they believed in what we were doing. These guys were eighth graders when we came in and made the jump up to 6A. To win district five years later is a big deal."

A 46-yard kickoff return by Justin Williams opening the game set up Bixby's first touchdown, a 10-yard pass play from quarterback Tanner Griffin to J. J. Cantrell. Taylor Ruth's conversion kick made it 7-0.

Bixby recovered a Sandite fumble on the ensuing kickoff and used a four-yard scoring run by junior Nic Roller for a 13-0 Spartan lead at the 7:43 mark of the first quarter. Sand Springs rallied in the second quarter to trim the gap to 13-10 with 6:20 left in the first half but a two-yard TD run by Roller gave BHS a 20-10 lead with 4:23 left.

After the two teams traded fumbles, the Spartans went on another lengthy drive with Roller scoring from a yard out for a 27-10 halftime lead.

Sand Springs fought back at the 2:05 mark of the third quarter on quarterback Connon Sitton's 26-yard TD screen pass to Davey Thayer making it a 27-17 game.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Sandites pooch kicked the ball and out-ran the Spartans for a recovery at the BHS 30. Two plays later, Thayer caught a 30-yard TD pass from Sitton trimming the gap to 27-24 with 1:26 left in the quarter.

Bixby answered on a 16-yard scoring burst by Roller with 11:53 left for a 34-24 lead. The Sandites' Boyles missed a 32-yard field goal but Sand Springs made things interesting with 3:18 left in the game after a 25-yard TD pass play from Sitton to Kasey Bales narrowed the BHS lead to 34-31.

Bixby senior Blake Cooper recovered an onside kick at the Bixby 36 with 3:15 left and the Spartans ran out the clock thanks to a diving 10-yard reception by Kyle Rhine on a third-and-six situation and a 16-yard run by Roller.

Bixby ended with 444 yards of total offense. Roller rushed for 182 yards on 28 attempts and scored four touchdowns. Griffin passed for 251 yards and one touchdown on 18-of-27 attempts, while Rhine caught nine passes for 163 yards.

The Spartans celebrated the district title afterward but realize the stakes have increased. "It's amazing. It's something I've never experienced and is something I'm going to remember for a long time," said senior defensive end Austin Grotts. "It was kind of a wake up call tonight and I think it'll benefit us in the long run." Cooper added, "It's a phenomenal experience. It hasn't been like this in a long time in Bixby and I'm glad we were able to bring it back. This game was an enormous wake up call for the entire team going into the first playoff game."

Casey Saied, a senior defensive end, said, "It's a great feeling knowing that all of our hard work has paid off since we haven't won district since 2007. We know we're a team that fights. To be able to come back in this game with all the things that went against us will help."

Rhine, a senior wide receiver, noted "This whole game was a wake up call. We know that we have to play our best if we want to win the gold ball. We know we're good but we don't always play like it. "It's pretty awesome and satisfying to know that we won district but it's not really enough. I don't want to stop with this," he added.